Red rice is a variety of rice with bran that is red, purple or maroon in color (unlike Mexican Red Rice, arroz rojo, which gets its color from crushed tomatoes). Among popular varieties are Bhutanese and Red Cargo rice. The reddish color of the rice is due to the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is linked to the alleviation of chronic health conditions.
WHEN IT’S A GOOD TIME TO SEE RED
Red rice offers a visual change to traditional white rice. Pair it with a spinach pesto in this creamy recipe and you’ve got a colorful, healthy holiday meal. For gluten-free folks, red rice is a welcome change to Arborio. This pesto packs a heavy dose of veggies: spinach, asparagus, and orange bell peppers. Baby spinach is rich in vitamin K, which may help reduce the severity of under-eye circles, and is essential to bone health (baby spinach is the same as regular spinach; it is just harvested earlier in its life cycle and tends to be sweeter and more tender than regular spinach). When picking baby spinach, look for bright green leaves—paler leaves tend to have less antioxidants.
Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid, which has been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tub defects, such as spina bifida. It is also a great source of potassium! When buying asparagus, look for tightly closed tips; avoid woody looking stems, or wilted looking stalks. These spears are best cooked and eaten right away. This recipe’s diced orange bell pepper topping is not only pretty, but a nutritional powerhouse too. They are very high in vitamin C, A, iron and dietary fiber. Fresh orange bell peppers also lend this pesto a spicy and herbaceous flavor, and a bit of crunch too! Garlic, in addition to being a natural antibacterial agent, makes this pesto a bit savory.
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Moms will love how this pesto packs a punch of protein by using toasted cashews. Greek yogurt offers a healthy dose of calcium and is easier on little tummies that are sensitive to full-fledged dairy products like milk or cream.
You can switch up this colorful dish to suit you and your kids’ specific needs. Leave out the Greek yogurt for a dairy-free pesto and try So Delicious Almond Milk instead; the cashews will also lend a naturally creamy taste and texture. Try arugula instead of baby spinach, or yellow and red bell peppers for orange peppers.
CREAMY SPINACH RED RICE PESTO
1 cup uncooked red rice
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled
2/3 cup cashews, toasted, plus more for serving
¾ TSP sea salt
½ TSP freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup Greek plain yogurt
1 orange bell pepper, diced
4 chives, finely chopped
- Cook rice according to package instructions.
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add spinach and asparagus in batches, cover and steam for 1 minute or until bright green and crunchy. Drain spinach and asparagus in a colander. Repeat with remaining spinach and asparagus. Set aside.
- To make the pesto: combine cooked spinach, asparagus, garlic, cashews, sea salt, pepper and lemon juice in a food processor. Drizzle in olive oil and Greek plain yogurt; pulse until smooth.
- Toss cooked red rice with the pesto mixture. Thin with warm water for desired consistency.
- Serve topped with diced orange bell pepper and chives.
Learn more about Amie Valpone.